Natalie Portman just shared her very practical reason for steering away from Method acting.
Portman scored an Academy Award for her portrayal of a ballerina who takes commitment to startling lengths in “Black Swan.” In the critically acclaimed “May December,” Portman plays Elizabeth Berry, an actress who dedicates herself to a film role in extreme and ethically questionable ways.
While she’s no stranger to portraying characters who dangerously over-commit, Portman herself stops short of Method acting — a technique in which an actor fully inhabits a character, often both on- and off-camera, for the duration of a project.
“I’ve gotten very into roles, but I think it’s honestly a luxury that women can’t afford,” Portman said of Method acting to the Wall Street Journal. “I don’t think that children or partners would be very understanding of, you know, me making everyone call me ‘Jackie Kennedy’ all the time.”
When discussing Todd Haynes’ “May December” with The Times this month, Portman considered her process as “looking into someone’s heart, but you’re also using their emotions and story as raw materials.”
Recently, there’s been an uptick in discourse surrounding the ethical qualms that might arise when portraying a real person, especially someone involved in a salacious public scandal or traumatic true-crime story. Vili Fualaau, the late Mary Kay Letourneau’s former student and estranged husband, said he was offended by “May December,” which is inspired by a reality he has lived since he was 13. Amanda Knox, whose initial murder conviction and ultimate acquittal was portrayed in “Stillwater,” also spoke out against the ethics in using stories like hers and Fualaau’s as source material for entertainment.
“I think all artists have that question of ‘What is that, ethically, to take someone’s feelings and turn it into entertainment?’” Portman told The Times. “Obviously, I don’t think most actors’ processes cross the lines that Elizabeth’s does. But it’s very close to questions of journalism and documentary — when does depicting someone change the course of their life? Which is very embedded in the story of this movie.”
She told the Wall Street Journal that she starts each day by waking up at 7 a.m. “I wake up the kids and get them ready for school — not very exciting — make them breakfast, take them to school and come back and walk the dogs.”
Portman’s point about Method acting being a luxury women can’t afford checks out, when you imagine her slipping into someone as conniving as her “May December” character while attending a parent-teacher conference or hosting play dates for her kids after school.